A Fine Fair It Is

OK, so you've never been to the Fourth Avenue Street Fair.

The reason is immaterial (brand-new to Tucson; incarceration; coma; live on the eastside and never venture past Swan Road unless subpoenaed). The question you need to ask yourself is: Why should you go now?

"This is really the 35th anniversary of the Street Fair," answers Sands Spencer, of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association. "If you haven't gone, this is the time to go."

Well, gosh, I am glad we have that cleared up.

But wait. You say you're still not convinced. You're telling me this fine quote did not sway you to head on down to Fourth Avenue between Ninth Street and University Boulevard on Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 20 for the twice-a-year festival that, according to the organizers, each draw a couple hundred thousand folks? Even though the event is free? And they'll feature 400 arts and crafts booths, 35 food vendors (including funnel cake! Funnel cake!!!), street performers, kids' entertainment, jugglers and, God help us, balloons?

You bastard!

"At any given street fair, about a third of the artists who are here are new," chimes in Spencer. See? It's new stuff, too, not that it matters, since you've never been to the Street Fair. But if you had, wouldn't that be great? Continues Spencer: "But pottery is pretty much pottery. (The Street Fair) pretty much looks the same all the time."

See? Sameness! Consistency! That's good, too! And Spencer goes on to say that you'll be helping out your peeps, too: "About 25 to 30 percent of the artists are local." But he also says: "In the last street fair, 35 different states were represented." Wow. Diverse!

Still thinking you'll stay home and watch March Madness instead? Well, since peer pressure, thriftiness, funnel cake (!) and the attraction of various arts and crafts didn't work, could I change your mind if I told you there would be three--count 'em!--three stages of entertainment going each day?

The North Stage, on Fifth Street and Hoff Avenue, will be in business from noon to 5 p.m. each of the three days, featuring such luminaries as Express Yo Blues (OK, so we've never heard of them, but that's a cool name, no?) on Friday, and the Arizona Jazz Academy the two weekend days.

The Seventh Street Stage will get down from noon to 4 p.m. each day with local luminaries (and damn it, we mean it now) including Ozlo, Desert Bluegrass, Stefan George, the Sand Rubies and Neon Prophet.

And finally, the Winsett Outdoor Performance Center, at 316 N. Fourth Ave., will go from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, showcasing everything from the Tucson Unified High School band to the improvisations of Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed to the a cappella stylings of Catacoustic Groove. And, as a reminder: It's all free.

But you say you're still not convinced? Sheesh, tough room. OK, we'll try one more thing: What if I told you it was for a good cause, too?

The Fourth Avenue Merchants Association says that the Street Fair is a big source of funding for more than 50 area nonprofits; for some, the Street Fair helps provide the bulk of their revenue.

Spencer explains that volunteers for nonprofits work--say, at the beer booth--in exchange for a share of the day's take. Other nonprofits are given free booths or space to solicit donations, sell raffle tickets or just spread their message. As examples, he says to expect Casa de los Ninos to be raffling off a car, while Tucson Clean and Beautiful will be giving out information on how to, well, make Tucson clean and beautiful.

Another group that will be on hand at this festival: "The Girl Scouts will be there, selling cookies," says Spencer. "We donated a booth to them."

There. Thin mints and philanthropy! What more could you ask for?

Wait ... you say you're still not planning on going? Well, screw you.

I'll see the rest of you fine folks there (in between the tourney games involving Stanford, Nevada and, of course, the Lute Crew). I'll be in the funnel cake line.

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